If I were Hillary Clinton, I would pose a challenge to Donald Trump: Let’s have much more than the usual three presidential debates.
She should challenge him to debate every week from the end of the Democratic National Convention until Election Day – a series of 14 debates in all.
Clinton’s best moments in this campaign have been when she is able to make the case directly to the voters, for herself and against Trump. Her strongest argument is that Trump is dangerously unfit to be president, and when she makes that argument, she is convincing.
But she lacks control of the media narrative. She can’t maintain constant attention for anti-Trump speeches that rehearse the same material. On days when voters aren’t focused on the comparison between the two candidates, they may instead think about why they’re not keen on either of them.
Clinton could get more airtime by giving near-constant interviews, as Trump did during the primary, but she is deeply suspicious of the media and reasonably fears that such interviews will be sidetracked into discussions of her email server and other scandals.
But unlike interviews, any debate between the two candidates will necessarily be focused on a question that Clinton can argue very successfully: Who would be a less bad president?
A debate every week would do a lot to block out the sun on other coverage and keep the media conversation focused on the direct comparison between the two candidates and their relative fitness for office.
Clinton is a strong debater. I believe she was hurt by the weekend burial of the debates in the Democratic primary contest.
Of course, there is the question of whether Trump would agree to so many debates. But if he didn’t, Clinton could hammer him relentlessly for ducking the proposal. If his appeal is that he is supposed to be so strong, why is he afraid of debates?
Plus, Trump is an egomaniac and might not want to admit, even to himself, that a long series of debates would be bad for him.
She might be able to corner him into accepting the proposal and transform the campaign into one that is much more substantive – and much more favorable to her.